Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Executive Director of Healthy Ghana, has bemoaned the belief held by a number of Ghanaians that superstition, instead of gem, was the driver of diseases, saying it was one of the major drawbacks of the health care system in Ghana
He said it was worrying that even the highly educated in society held firmly to this belief, and would resort to prayer camps, instead of hospitals until the situation became worse, thereby endangering a sick person’s life.
Prof. Akosa was speaking on “Communication, Culture and Health,” at the third day of the first University of Cape Coast (UCC) Faculty of Arts Colloquium in Cape Coast, with the aim of providing a platform for researchers in the humanities at UCC and other avenues, to disseminate research findings on selected themes in order to inform policy briefs of the University and the nation.
Participants, drawn from various health, culture and communication disciplines, including staff and students of the Faculty of Arts, are being taken through three plenary presentations, 48 scientific research reports, a seminar as well as a round table discussion.
Prof. Akosa expressed concern that the poor and aged were invariably accused of using witchcraft to cause diseases and other predicaments, adding that many lives which have been lost to convulsion and other health conditions, could have been saved if the superstition factor had been eliminated.
He pointed out that even though prayer camps continuously abused people’s trust, patrons would always choose the camps over hospitals, and warned leaders of such camps to be careful with their activities, since they could be legally held responsible for the death of sick persons under their care.
He condemned the belief that the human urine could cure diseases, and urged the general public to be wary of the kind of medical advice they adhere to.
A Pathologist, by profession, Prof Akosa said, the superstition factor had led to the lack of trust in pathologists, since most people thought it was unnecessary or held strongly to the belief that some people, especially traditional leaders, were not supposed to be operated even in their demise.
He observed that most Ghanaians, even the well -educated, did not possess the habit of reading about their health conditions, either on line or in magazines, and therefore encouraged them to read more about health, especially the labels and briefs that come with drugs.
On herbal medicine, Prof. Akosa , noted that the mystic power of herbal medicine had eluded the herbalist’s ability to identify the active ingredients in the herbs, and had therefore set the stage for criticism of herbal medicine’s ability to cure more than one disease.
Prof Akosa said the spirituality concept attached to the use of traditional medical had made most people to rather shy away in preference to western medicines, adding that if herbalists were well trained to identify active component in herbs, herbal medicine would be of great importance to healthcare.
He cited the late Professor Ewurama Addy’s study of the connection between herbal medicine and the sciences, saying allopathic and herbal medicine could pave way in health care when appropriately used.
He said the widest social determinants such as roads, water, and housing, were themselves causes of diseases, since water shortage, overcrowding in homes, and poor roads and traffic, were exposing Ghanaians to various diseases.
Prof Akosa in this regard advised the public to undergo regular health screening for early detection and treatment, explaining that, the body was dynamic, and constantly changing, and therefore periodic health screening allowed for the early detection of diseases previously unknown to individuals.
He said if he had the chance to design Ghana’s Health Care System, the building of more Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) Compound and the appointment of competent health officers would be paramount.
He mentioned nutrition, immunization and regular exercise as other components of the health care system, explaining that balanced diet, prevention of diseases and exercises, were better than drugs as they had a better chance of safeguarding the body against diseases.
Prof. Ahmed Adu-Oppong, Lecturer at the UCC School of Medical Science, who presided, said it was important to learn about the role communication and culture played in health care delivery, and called on Ghanaians to change their superstitious beliefs in order to foster Ghana’s health care system.